Does ground coffee go bad? It’s an age-old question with a myriad of answers, theories, and myths. Check out these 3 surprising facts about coffee and freshness that might surprise you.
We’ve all stared at that old package of coffee sitting in the back of our cupboard wondering if it’s still okay to drink at least once in our life.
The last thing you want to do is to throw out a perfectly full bag of coffee, albeit a little stale, if it won’t cause you any harm.
We get it!
You don’t have to hide your face in shame. You just want to know, does ground coffee go bad!
Which is why we sat down as a team to debate, research, analyze and scream to find out conclusively, does ground coffee go bad?
Let’s dig a little deeper:
1.) Does Ground Coffee Go Bad? The Freezer Myth
First things first:
When we were researching this topic we always saw articles which recommended that you Do Not freeze your whole or ground coffee beans to extend its shelf life.
With a serious warning:
If you do, it will ruin your beans once and for all.
Exhibit A: Huffington Post’s take on this topic
Can this be true?
In our opinion, no this is not true and is a myth to squash forever.
Storing coffee in the freezer is one of the best ways to keep your beans fresh for a longer period of time.
With that said:
The articles do have some good points and obviously like all food items, it is a conclusive yes to the question, does ground coffee go bad.
If you’re going to drink coffee daily, it is better to store it in the pantry than the freezer.
This is because moisture is one of the worst things for the coffee bean and if you going to take your beans in and out of the refrigerator daily, the temperature changes will wreak moisture havoc on your beans.
Hang on a minute:
Even though the refrigerator could be bad, it doesn’t mean you can’t use it to store your beans.
If you’re storing coffee long term, like for over a month, according to The National Coffee Association, you can safely store it in the freezer with little to no bean degradation.
Still not convinced?
Okay okay, stick with us here.
Let’s go through one of our favorite pieces of research which show that freezing coffee, does not impact the flavor in the final brew.
Some people even liked the frozen coffee beans better than the fresh beans.
Digging Deeper Into Frozen Coffee
Luckily for all of us coffee loving fanatics, there is a wonderful and thriving online coffee community which answers all sorts of coffee questions scientifically.
Jim Schulman, the founding member of SCAA (Specialty Coffee Association of America) and Ken Fox, the founder of one of the first online coffee shops in Seattle have conducted a couple of studies to figure out if freezing coffee has any impact on the final cup.
Let’s take a look at their blind taste test to see what they found out.
So what did this blind tasting trial involve?
The Elements of the Test
- Included a cupping test and a straight espresso shot tasting tests
- Espresso shots were prepared at the same time on separate espresso machines while keeping the variables such as brew temperature, coffee dosage, extraction time, etc. as minimal as possible
- The only knowledge the testers had was that one shot of espresso used fresh beans and the other frozen beans
The Coffee Used in the Test
- Sidamo Worka Coffee Beans
- This bean was selected because of its delicate and fruity flavor profile, which would allow testers to taste the subtle changes easier
- The frozen coffee beans were quickly bagged and frozen in coffee valve bags with a piece of scotch tape taped over the valve after roasting
The Frozen Coffee vs the Fresh Coffee
- Beans were frozen for 1 month or 4 months
- The fresh coffee was degassed for 5 days, but other than that had been freshly roasted
The Conclusive Evidence that Frozen is Just as Good
- 1 Month Frozen vs. Fresh: Frozen and fresh tied 3 to 3 with 2 ties
- 4 Month Frozen vs. Fresh: Frozen coffee won 10 to 4, with 2 ties
So what does this all mean? Does Coffee Go Bad?
They proved there was no significance in taste between frozen and freshly roasted coffee.
In fact, and this is a direct quote from them “Freezing remains a viable method for the preservation of coffee roasted for espresso, for a period of at least 4 months”.
Yes, you read that right!
It is okay to store your beans in the freezer for up to 4 months.
This blew our mind when we found out because from day 1 everyone who we talked to in our own coffee community recommended that we do not freeze our coffee beans.
2.) Does Ground Coffee Go Bad? Best Before By Date Is Not Accurate
We know the feeling:
You look into your cupboard and you see a bag of coffee that you bought a few months ago while on vacation.
Dare we say it, from more than a year ago!
At that point, like any logical human, you’re probably wondering does ground coffee go bad and if it is still safe to drink.
The easy answer is yes, it probably is.
Like other dry food products, coffee has a best before date, which is merely a recommendation on how long the coffee will taste good for.
It doesn’t mean the coffee actually expires, like say dairy products do.
And drinking coffee far past this date will not be harmful to your health or make you sick.
According to canitgobad.net, a site dedicated to answering the age-old questions about when food items go bad, this is how long you can drink coffee past the best before date:
- Ground Coffee: A few months to half a year after the best before date
- Whole Bean Coffee: Half a year to about 9 months after the best before date
- Instant Coffee: Years after the best before date
Here’s the catch:
Although you can still drink very old coffee, does that mean you should?
No, of course not!
Don’t waste your precious stomach space or taste buds on coffee that has been sitting around for that long (Although, to be honest with you, we’ve done it once or twice in our lifetime).
The coffee definitely will not make you sick, but the longer the coffee sits around, the less flavor it will have.
As we went over in our article about the ratio of coffee to water, beans start to lose their aromatics from the time it is roasted.
Now, don’t go out and buy yourself a home roaster in order use beans which have just been roasted now.
All coffee beans actually have different optimal taste profile time periods and we’ve seen it range from 3 – 18 days after roasting to 5 – 30 days after roasting; including degassing time too.
Next time you go out to your local coffee shop to pick out a new bag of beans to try, check with your barista to see what they recommend for your selection.
Don’t know what we mean when we mention degassing time of coffee?
Don’t worry. We didn’t know at first either and we’re going to cover what it is, next.
And if your barista can’t answer your question, then we recommend you finding a new coffee shop to go to.
3.) Freshly Roasted Coffee is Not the Best – The Degassing Period
Yes, you read that right.
It is a huge myth that fresh roasted coffee tastes better.
Coffee is like a fine wine or a yummy piece of steak; it needs time to rest and collect itself after roasting before its ready to drink.
This period is called the degassing period and all coffee beans need it.
Why do coffee beans need this?
When coffee is roasted, a huge chemical reaction takes place, like YUUGE and gasses start to build up inside the bean.
And you know what happens next, the gasses release, which is the degassing period.
When coffee is this fresh, there is so much gas escaping that it actually impacts the coffee brewing process.
Let’s say you tried to brew a cup of coffee using coffee this fresh.
It would work.
There would be so much gas being released by the beans (Yes, we made a fart joke here too and don’t lie, we know you giggled a little) at this point, that your cup of coffee would be uneven and erratic.
And who wants a cup of coffee like that, right!
But, don’t worry:
Most coffee roasters will not sell you coffee unless they have properly gone through its optimal degassing period.
As a point of reference.
The darker the coffee bean, the closer to the actual roast date you should use the coffee.
This is because the longer the beans roast, the more porous it becomes and the faster the beans stale and degas.
Like we said above, if you have any questions about the peak consumption period of the bean you choose, ask your barista and they should know.
If they don’t know, like we also said above, you really need to find a new barista or a new roaster.
The conclusion to the Question Does Ground Coffee Go Bad?
So does ground coffee go bad?
The bottom line is this:
Ground coffee does not go bad as soon as you think it would and is drinkable way past the best before date.
We’re not giving you the green light here to go and drink all those old dusty bags of coffee in your cabinet now, but we are saying that if you’re that desperate for a caffeine kick then go for it.
It was no surprise to find fresh coffee makes for the best cup of coffee, but what was a surprise to find out is that the freshness of coffee is relative to the correct degassing period.
Oh yeah, and the fact that it is okay to store your coffee in the freezer.
So go ahead.
Freeze those coffee beans if you must and don’t worry about what others say. Make sure you pay attention to that degassing period though and don’t let that best before date scares you away.
Do you have any tips on how best to keep your coffee fresh?